It took about three days for the GOP-led Florida Legislature to approve the removal of Disney’s special status from the time the measure was announced, in accordance with the short deadline of last week’s special legislative session. Throughout debate on the bill, GOP lawmakers have stressed that it gives the company and the state a year to resolve complex tax and debt issues.
The latest twist in the Florida v. Disney saga came when Reedy Creek questioned the legality of the Legislature’s decision to dissolve the special district, which allowed the entertainment giant to build its own structures without asking for the approval of a local planning commission and to collect taxes and issue bonds. The neighborhood was created in the 1960s.
In a note to investors first reported this week by WESH 2 in Orlando, Reedy Creek officials pointed to an earlier agreement between Florida and the special district that apparently could prohibit the state from changing its status until until the bond debts are paid.
Reedy Creek currently carries about $1 billion in unpaid debt, according to Fitch Ratings, burdens that Democrats and the special district say could be unloaded on Orange and Osceola counties near Disney World. After the legislature approved the measure punishing Disney, Fitch Ratings placed Reedy Creek on “negative rating watch,” which is essentially a warning to investors.
On Thursday, Fitch issued an additional warning, saying Florida’s decision to dismantle Reedy Creek “increases uncertainty for bondholders” and that if the state doesn’t find a way to address the debt, it “could alter our view of Florida’s commitment to preserving bondholders.” rights and weaken our view of the operating environment of Florida governments.
Reedy Creek’s board of supervisors, meanwhile, met Wednesday for the first time since the repeal and had few, if any, answers on what to do next.
“There’s nothing I can do about it and I don’t think there’s anyone here who knows what to do about it,” board member Don Greer said, according to local media. “The Governor of the State of Florida will have to decide that.”
DeSantis and his administration reject any claims that local governments and residents could see tax increases as a result of the move, insisting the idea is a “media-amplified partisan political lie.”
“If it’s true that repealing the special district would give Disney a tax break, and that local taxpayers would be responsible for this bailout for Disney…why would Disney oppose the idea of repeal his special district?” Pushaw wrote. “Indeed, if that were true, why wouldn’t Disney have pushed to get rid of the Special Ward a long time ago?”
To this end, the Rep. charlie christ (D-Fla.), one of DeSantis’ top Democratic challengers in 2022, is trying to campaign against DeSantis’ fight against Disney. Crist’s campaign announced a new ad Thursday that aired in Orange and Osceola lambasting the Republican governor for a decision that Crist could raise property taxes. Crist in the ad quotes Orange County tax collector Scott Randolph, a Democrat who previously served in the State House who says his county will absorb Reedy Creek’s debt.
“I thought Republicans were supposed to be against tax increases,” Crist said at an event this week.
Florida Republicans, led by DeSantis, eliminated Disney’s special status as punishment for opposing the recently signed contract. Parental rights in education bill that prohibits educators from directing classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade. LGBTQ advocates say the measure, which has been dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, could lead to increased bullying or even suicide among young people, while GOP lawmakers have argued that it was necessary to give more power to parents in the state.
The actions against Disney are part of DeSantis’ fight against “woke” culture in schools and businesses, efforts set out in several new laws passed in 2022 targeting how students learn about race and gender identity.
Along with the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ criticisms, DeSantis took issue with recent statements from Disney executives discussing efforts to include more diverse characters in their content, which were detailed in the company’s Zoom calls reported by the activist. curator Christopher Rufo. DeSantis also argued that the special status granted to Disney gave the company an unfair advantage. Disney is one of the state’s largest employers, with more than 75,000 employees.
“Fundamentally, this arrangement was corporate welfare — no question about it,” DeSantis said Wednesday at a Las Vegas campaign event for Nevada Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt.
“It was totally unfair to every other company in Florida. But it also represented my state being joined at the hip with this one company. And if you admit that your intention is to inject sexuality into programming for these young children, I can’t have this relationship.
Gary Fineout contributed to this report.